Many of us eagerly await the summer season to hit the beach or pool with our friends and family. There is, however, another option. You could spend the season competing in athletic events such as running, swimming, biking, and climbing. Why? Because the summer season is when competitions happen. Events like the Tour de France, the Olympics, and the World Championships are usually the best showcases for any sport. When it comes to our favourite pastime, football, the biggest events are often held in the winter.
At least, that is the case for most sports. If you are an adventurous fellow, there are a number of other events you could take part in during the summer season. One of the most interesting is mountain climbing. Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to test your strength and agility, but you can also bet on the outcome! Interested? Keep reading.
Why Compete In Mountain Climbing
Mountain climbing is a competitive sport with a long history. Back in the day, men would go on climbing expeditions to conquer the highest peaks. They would compete against each other to see who could reach the top first. While the expedition members would usually reach the top first, the fastest climbers would eventually start betting on the outcome of these competitions.
Today, the concept behind mountain climbing has evolved. The main event is still based on competition, but it is no longer about reaching the top first. Many mountain climbing events are now geared towards giving the local community an opportunity to climb and exercise. All money raised from these competitions goes to charity. So not only is it good for your health, it is also good for society. Win-win!
The Evolution Of Competitive Climbing
Over the years, mountain climbing has evolved from a sport where you compete against the clock to one where you compete against other climbers in a friendly manner. You still have the traditional top-first/speed-first approach to competitions, but in addition to that, you have many new modes of competition. This includes:
Individual vs Team Events
In individual events, you climb as fast as you can without help from others. For example, in a traditional ‘Top-First’ competition, you would start at the base of the mountain and work your way to the top. In an individual event, you are not part of a team, so you have to climb as fast as you can to beat the clock. If you complete the course within the time limit, you win. If not, you lose. The same concept applies to qualifying rounds in team events. In a team event, you are not actually competing against another team, but a timer. The team with the three minutes shaved off their time wins!
In addition to individual and team events, you now have time-based events. In these events, you start at the top of a mountain and work your way down. The person with the fastest time wins. In this scenario, everyone is working together to achieve the best time. This is why these events are often referred to as ‘progressive’ or ‘pushing’ competitions. In a time-based event, you don’t have the luxury of starting at the base and working your way up. You have to climb as fast as you can from the top! This is why you will see many athletes using the ‘scorpion’ arm position to speed up their climb.
Another way of competing in mountain climbing competitions is by using a particular style. Depending on the distance of the route, you may need a certain style to ensure you keep your aerobic exercise while also ensuring you keep your finger tips straight! For example, if you are climbing a short route, you may need to clip in a little more frequently to ensure you do not run out of breath.
Types Of Mountain Climbing
There are four main types of mountain climbing: traditional, speed, endurance, and wall. Traditionally, the most popular type of climb is the sport climb. This is the kind of climb where you use your hands and feet to pull yourself up the wall. The majority of the route is usually steeper than it is wide, with large holds for you to grip. The popular Wallenberg (pictured below) is an example of a traditional route.
If you enjoy climbing on tough terrain, you could take up rock climbing. This is a bit like traditional climbing, but instead of using your hands and feet to pull yourself up, you use mechanical aids such as jumar pins, nuts, and bolts to assist you. Popular routes for beginners include the 5.12+ route at the Royal Gorge in Colorado or the classic multi-pitch climb at Squamish. If you are more of an experienced climber looking for a new challenge, you could take up mountaineering. This is a more technical form of climbing where you will need to use your hands, feet, and most likely other body parts as well to pull yourself up. One of the most difficult parts about mountaineering is getting used to carrying extra weight on your back. You will soon learn to appreciate every gram! If you are looking for a more cultural experience and want to get away from computers and phones, you could take up cave diving. This is where you will need all your gear, including your wetsuit, helmet, and snorkel. You will also need to be prepared to stay underwater for long periods of time. The only signals you will get from above are bubbles coming from the surface. Once you learn to relax and get into the rhythm of the dive, you will be able to appreciate and enjoy the thrill of underwater exploration. Finally, if you are looking for an extreme challenge and want to see how much you can push yourself, you could try free soloing. This is where you will need to rely solely on your own mental and physical strength to climb up the wall. You will need to train a lot to be able to free solo safely. Once you have, you will be able to experience the thrill of climbing up the side of a mountain without any safety rope.